Discussing Obesity

Last week on social media, we shared a blog post about the important but sensitive topic of obesity. We used a photo that has been used before, but it started a good discussion.

Obesity and the Negative Stigma

One of the goals of the OAC is to remove the negative stigma around obesity. They offer some very good information on their site, such as:

  • “care should not be seen as simply having the goal of reducing body weight, but should additionally be focused on improving overall health and quality of life.” We agree!
  • “Obesity is not a condition of personal choice.” We agree!
  • “Treating or addressing obesity among those already affected by obesity is difficult.” We agree!

9Health wants to be every Coloradans partner in health, and not just when it comes to weight. We want to help with all health issues. Our goal is to raise awareness, educate, and provide access to affordable screenings.

We learned that according to the OAC, it is better to use phrases like we do with other diseases we talk about. So, instead of using the phrase “obese individuals” we should use the phrase “individuals affected by obesity.” Here’s an example in a sentence: Studies show that individuals affected by obesity are more likely to be stigmatized if their overweight condition is perceived to be caused by controllable factors compared to uncontrollable factors (e.g., overeating versus a thyroid condition).

What We Learned

One of the people who commented about the image used sent us this great resource from the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC). Here’s what they say about images:

Individuals with obesity are often portrayed in a negative light, with photos focused on uncontrolled eating, headless men and women, shots zoomed in on body parts and other common practices perpetuating bias and stigma around this disease.

Our photo was of a headless man/woman zoomed in on body parts. It wasn’t chosen for that reason. It was chosen because one, obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes that an individual can do something about (you can’t control your age or family history) and two, if we’re using a picture of an overweight person we thought using a face in the picture would make them feel ashamed.

But now we see that many people feel it is better to show the whole person and going forward we will.